From Web Development to Cloud Native with Edidiong Asikpo

From Web Development to Cloud Native with Edidiong Asikpo

Welcome to #SheCloudNativeSeries a monthly interview series where we chat with renowned women in various roles in the Cloud Native industry about their career experiences. We hope that sharing their unique stories ignites a spark of motivation, encouragement, and inspiration among other women to pursue fulfilling careers in Cloud Native.

We are thrilled to present the July series of #SheCloudNative, featuring our community builder, Roseline Bassey, in an insightful conversation with Edidiong Asikpo (Didi), a Senior Developer Advocate at Ambassador Labs. In this month’s series, Edidiong shares insight into her career journey in the Cloud Native industry, shedding light on her transition from the web development field to the cloud-native field. We also explore her role as a Developer Advocate for a Kubernetes and cloud-native tooling company.

Let’s dive in to learn more about her story and gain valuable insights.

Roseline: Hi Edidiong, It's nice having you on the series.

Edidiong: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

Roseline: Before we begin, would you like to introduce yourself to us?

Edidiong: Sure. My name is Edidiong Asikpo. I oftentimes go by Didi because Edidiong can be hard to pronounce for people who are not from Akwa Ibom, which is the state I come from. I currently work as a Senior Developer Advocate at Ambassador Labs, which is a Cloud Native, Kubernetes-focused company. I love writing technical articles. I love building and also helping developer communities grow. And then, when I'm not doing anything tech related, I love to travel and watch a ton of movies. I think I'm obsessed with watching movies.

Roseline: How did you get into tech?

Edidiong: Yeah, so first of all, I studied computer science. And if you're schooling in a Nigerian university as a science student, you’ll have to go for an internship in your third year. So I went for this internship in my third year at a company called Start Innovation Hub, where I learned how to build Android applications and was also exposed to the Google Developer Groups community. Even though I studied computer science, I think what really made my decision to pursue a tech career was that internship, because it gave me an opportunity to see that I could build stuff.

I feel like when I was in school, we didn't do a lot of practicals. And even when we did them, it was really hard to understand. But then at this internship, I could actually build an Android application, run it on my phone, and see it working. And at the time, I used to be very obsessed with Facebook the application. So the fact that I could build an application and run it on my phone made me feel like, okay, if I keep doing this thing, someday I'll be able to build Facebook or something. So I continued on that path of learning Android development. Also, seeing people who were just as young as I was or maybe slightly older doing amazing stuff in tech at the time was just inspiring for me because I was like if these people can do it, I can do it too. And I feel like after I got back from that internship and went to school, a lot of things began to make more sense.

So, why did I get into tech? It's because of that internship. Of course, I know that the internship wouldn't have happened if I didn't study computer science. So you can still tie it back to studying computer science. But interning at Start Innovation Hub was the thing for me. It gave me that view to see that I could actually be able to build something and be good at it. It gave me a community. I could see people teaching others, and sharing their knowledge, and that cemented my love for tech and made me realize that I could build a career in this someday.

Roseline: How did you land your current role as a developer advocate at Ambassador Labs?

Edidiong: Before Ambassador Labs, I used to work at Hashnode, which is a company centred around helping developers to get into technical writing. At first, I got a LinkedIn message from the HR from Ambassador Labs and when I looked at the company, I was like, this company is a Cloud Native and Kubernetes-focused company. I don't really know a lot about it. So I didn't respond to the LinkedIn message. I just felt like it would be out of place when I looked at the company in terms of where I was because I was more focused on web development. So a couple of months later, let's assume I saw this LinkedIn message in November or December of the previous year. So sometime in, let's say, April or March, I can't really remember, I got an email from the Director of DevRel from the same company saying that, hey, they wanted to build a DevRel team, and that they'd love me to come on board. And then it felt like, okay, is the universe telling me something here? They reached out a couple of months back, and they're reaching out again.

For context, when I used to work at Interswitch as a software engineer, I usually sat down close to someone named Abdul. He was a DevOps person for our team. And because we sat down close to each other, whenever something went down, let's say, for instance, QuickTeller wasn't working, or any of the products weren't working, everybody would always be like “Abdul, this thing is not working”. And then you would hear him say stuff like, “I'm logging into Kubernetes”. And when you'd look at his terminal, you’ll see him running lots of commands and several things happening. So that always felt fascinating to me. And I was like, maybe someday in the future, I will go into learning this whole Kubernetes thing because it really looks fascinating.

So when this email came again, the second time, I was like, It's finally time for me to go into that thing that I thought was fascinating at some point. So I told them that, I do have DevRel skills, but don’t really know a lot about Kubernetes and Cloud Native. I mean, I know what it means, but I don't have the deep knowledge to be able to advocate for these tools or be able to work in this company. But, if they were open to giving me an opportunity to learn, and eventually start contributing, then I'll be open to doing that. So I jumped up with having the first conversation with the DevRel Manager and it was really one of the best interviews I've ever had. We had a really good conversation about several things. And then eventually joined the company.

In the first and a half months in the company, I was focused on learning Kubernetes and Cloud Native. I was assigned to the support team and the Engineering Manager of the support team. We had conversations almost every day, where I was sharing what I was learning. So yeah, it was through an email from the Head of DevRel. And one thing that really helped me to get into this space was the company giving me an opportunity to be able to learn on the job. Give me all the resources that I needed, and assigned me to somebody knowledgeable about Kubernetes for daily check-ins. From that point till now, they continue to support me in several ways and give me opportunities to learn. So, that's how I got into the field.

Roseline: It's so interesting to know that there are companies that could give their staff an opportunity to learn on the job. Kudos to Ambassador Labs.

Roseline: You mentioned transitioning from a web development background to the Cloud-Native domain. Could you tell us about any challenges you may have faced during your transition?

Edidiong: I feel like the thing with transitioning from one tech field to another is that you'd always ask yourself; “hey, did you make the right decision?” “Should you have stayed in web development?” This is because for you to have built a career in web development for some time, it means that you are knowledgeable about certain things. So going into a different field is like starting all over again, of course, it's not exactly like someone who just comes into tech for the first time. But then it's like being a beginner all over again.

I know that a lot of people always have issues of being scared to transition from one tech field to another. But then I feel that if you've been in a certain tech field before and you want to transition to another one, it would be a lot easier than someone who is just starting from scratch. This is because you might already know how to find resources and you might also have known people who are already in that field, so you can reach out to them to say: “Hey, can you bring me on board?” But I feel like the challenging thing for me was Kubernetes. It's very complicated to learn. I remember that I'll be like, Hey, I know about pods today and I'm excited about it. And then tomorrow, I realize that, hey, I also need to know about services and networking. It was like a never-ending street of things that I needed to know. That was one of the things I struggled with because there were so many pieces involved that I had to understand to be able to get the full picture.

My team was supportive. I was lucky enough to have somebody who I could speak with everyday whenever I had issues. And I also had some friends in the community, like Obinna, that were helping me to understand certain things that I struggled with. To rephrase or answer the question, it would be the fear of thinking I made the wrong decision and imposter syndrome. Because, at that point, I no longer know as much as I used to in my previous field. And then also having to learn so many things to upscale as quickly as possible. Those were some of the things that I struggled with.

However, I do think it was one of the best decisions that I made to transition from web development to cloud-native. I mean, that's where the future is, right? Everybody is moving to the cloud. So being in this space now means that five, or six years from now a lot more people would continue to move to the cloud. So, the fact that I'm here now means that when that time comes, I'll be a lot better and more knowledgeable.

Roseline: On my next question, are there specific resources or communities that helped you during your transition that you would recommend to people reading your story?

Yes, so there is this company called KodeKloud. They teach Kubernetes and other cloud native topics. Honestly, I feel like they're probably one of the best out there. I used them when I was trying to prepare for the CKAD certification exams. I like the way they explain stuff. That was really helpful for me. And I think the other thing was like the community on Twitter. So when I made this transition, I made a post saying, “Hey, I'm now transitioning to the cloud native. And I'm looking to connect with people that can help or maybe people should share resources”. And people were really willing to share resources with me. Some people opted to schedule a call with me. So having conversations with those people, and knowing that I had someone to reach out to when I needed help was very helpful.

And then also the Kubernetes community as well, because I tried to dive into contributing. Of course, I wasn't very knowledgeable at the time. I focused mostly on the documentation because I couldn't contribute to the code. So they were very welcoming. I joined the Kubernetes community on Slack, even the cloud native community as well, and all of those things combined to help. So I think that the cloud native community is very welcoming to beginners, very welcoming to people who are making the transition. As opposed to communities or organizations that may not necessarily be as welcoming to beginners. I think the cloud native community is very different in regard to that.

Roseline: I feel that being a developer advocate for a web-focused company is different from being a developer advocate for a cloud-native tooling company. My question is, what skills and experience does someone need to have to get a role as a developer advocate in the cloud native space?

Edidiong: You're absolutely correct. When you are a developer advocate in the web field it's a lot different from when you're a developer advocate in the cloud native field. So you need to scale up yourself in the technologies. if you're already a developer advocate in another field, it means that you have the knowledge or the skills required to be a developer advocate. And then let's say in web development, for instance, it means that in addition to those skills of being a developer advocate, you also understand the web. So if you're transitioning to cloud native, it means that, you still have those developer advocacy skills, but the only difference now is you don't have the knowledge of cloud native.

So I feel like in that scenario, what you really need to focus on is upskilling yourself technologically. Like understanding Kubernetes, understanding the cloud-native workflow, the landscape, understanding what your company is focused on, and then the skills you need to know to be able to understand them. So for instance, my company has two products, one is centered around an ingress control and API gateway, while the other one is focused on Kubernetes development. So I knew that I needed to upskill myself in these two sectors of cloud-native.

So my advice would be to try to find out what you need to know for the field that you're focusing on. Every company is focused on several areas of cloud native, right? Or maybe more specific ones. So just find out what your company is focused on. What do you need to know to be able to properly advocate your company's tools, and be able to speak to the developer community about it? And then focus on that.

Once you have that covered, you can now take a step into other general cloud native technologies, right? So let's say my company is more focused on API gateway, and Kubernetes development. And I have a sense of that now. I can say, hey, I want to learn Prometheus, which is more centred around monitoring. It has absolutely nothing to do with my company, but personally, that's what I want to learn. Because again, I would need to have conversations with people and they might mention Prometheus. And I'm like, if I don't know anything about it, that's not so great. But if I have a sense of what it means, I can contribute to the conversation, then that's helpful, right? So that's what I would recommend.

Roseline: Thank you very much for those tips. The stats from KubeConEu 2023 which took place a few months ago, showed that only 7% of women attended the event in person. And you were part of the 7% of women who attended the event in Europe. Now, I would like to ask what you think women need to do to get involved or be seen in the cloud-native industry.

Edidiong: Yeah, I think it's just like a general thing and not necessarily very specific to cloud native. We all know that in the tech industry in general, we don't have as many women as men in tech, right? And that then now breaks down into several other tech industries, like web development, Android development, cloud-native development. And I feel like that's also, again, based on the number of people involved in these industries or how these industries are being perceived, right? So for instance, even though there are not still a lot of women in tech, right? You see that we have a lot more women in web development compared to cloud native. And that's because there was a time when web development was the thing everybody knew about it.

Cloud native is also still up and coming, right? So it would take a while for people to also divert into this ecosystem as well. So I think a general thing would just be like, okay, hey, how can we bring in more women into tech? And when they're coming to tech, they can now decide, hey, I want to do it in cloud native or I want to do it in web development, all of those things. Because if there are still not as many women in tech in general, then you can't really increase the number of women specifically in the cloud native industry.

And then another thing I would say is that oftentimes people think of Kubernetes and cloud-native as very complicated and very complex. And honestly, they are, to be honest, but in truth, every other thing in the world is harder and complex. So it means that if you could actually learn how to be a technical writer or learn how to do web development or learn anything that you are very knowledgeable about, it means that you can also learn about cloud native, right? I usually say this stuff that if you are so knowledgeable about web development today, right? And then you look at Kubernetes and you're like, oh no, this thing is really hard. Just try to take a step back and remember that there was one day when you didn't know anything about web development and you thought it was hard too, but then today you know about it.

So everything oftentimes seems hard when you are not doing it or you've not given yourself time to try it or process it or whatever. But if you give yourself that opportunity to actually try, you realize that yes, it's probably hard, but you are capable of understanding, you're capable of learning and you're capable of scaling through regardless of how difficult or complex the technology is perceived. And yeah, if more people think about it that way, then we'll begin to have, I mean, not just women, but also men make the switch.

We need to also talk about our experiences, right? like what you and Women in Cloud Native are doing, like spotlighting women, making other women see that, hey, there are women in this field doing great and trying to build their careers. Seeing other women do this would also serve as a motivating factor to bring more women into the cloud native field.

Roseline: Yeah, thank you very much. That is the core reason why Women in Cloud Native was established. I remember last year when I began learning about cloud native and DevOps tools, I rarely saw women on my timeline on Twitter talk about cloud native. So I understand the need to have communities that are women focused to encourage other women to get into the field.

Roseline: Lastly, do you have other general tips or advice you'd give to women who want to transition into cloud native or who are already in the cloud native space, but want to excel in their careers?

Yeah, I think one thing I often say is putting yourself out there, right? Letting people know what you're doing. Because I think it comes with a lot of opportunities and benefits, right? If I wasn't talking about me being in cloud native or talking about the things that I was doing, chances are you probably wouldn't have known that I was in cloud native or reached out to me about this, like having this conversation today. So I definitely encourage people to put themselves out there, write that technical article, create that video content, and talk about what you're doing on Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever social media platform you're using. Because the thing with doing this is that people begin to know you as someone who is inside that field or working in that field.

So if opportunities come up, they can remember you and say, “Hey, let me reach out to Roseline. She's into Kubernetes or DevOps. She's going to be able to help me solve this problem or she'd be a great fit to give this talk in a really cool place. I'll probably pay you to speak there”. So I always recommend that people try to be vocal about what you're doing. Fine, maybe you think you're not very knowledgeable, but it could be as simple as asking a question like, "Hey, do you understand how to do this thing? I'm struggling with this or that". And then people now know that, oh, "hey, this person is in this particular field".

And that question could actually be helpful because maybe there's someone else out there in the world who is struggling with that same thing but didn't have the boldness to come up and ask about it. And seeing your question there could give them the answer or give them the boldness to also try themselves. So yeah, that's what I would say. Try to put yourself out there.

The End…

You can also listen to the interview on Youtube podcast:

You can connect with Edidiong Asikpo on Twitter and Linkedin